Emergent scientists discuss Alzheimer's disease

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This seminar is part of our “Emergent Scientists” series, an initiative that provides a platform for scientists at the critical PhD/postdoc transition period to share their work with a broad audience and network.

These talks cover Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research in both mice and humans. Christiana will discuss in particular the translational aspects of applying mouse work to humans and the importance of timing in disease pathology and intervention (e.g. timing between AD biomarkers vs. symptom onset, timing of therapy, etc.). Siddharth will discuss a rare variant of Alzheimer’s disease called “Logopenic Progressive Aphasia”, which presents with temporo-parietal atrophy yet relative sparing of hippocampal circuitry. Siddharth will discuss how, despite the unusual anatomical basis underlying this AD variant, degeneration of the angular gyrus in the left inferior parietal lobule contributes to memory deficits similar to those of typical amnesic Alzheimer’s disease.

Christiana’s abstract:
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder that causes severe deterioration of memory, cognition, behavior, and the ability to perform daily activities. The disease is characterized by the accumulation of two proteins in fibrillar form; Amyloid-β forms fibrils that accumulate as extracellular plaques while tau fibrils form intracellular tangles. Here we aim to translate findings from a commonly used AD mouse model to AD patients. Here we initiate and chronically inhibit neuropathology in lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC) layer two neurons in an AD mouse model. This is achieved by over-expressing P301L tau virally and chronically activating hM4Di DREADDs intracranially using the ligand dechloroclozapine. Biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is measured longitudinally in the model using microdialysis, and we use this same system to intracranially administer drugs aimed at halting AD-related neuropathology. The models are additionally tested in a novel contextual memory task. Preliminary findings indicate that viral injections of P301L tau into LEC layer two reveal direct projections between this region and the outer molecular layer of dentate gyrus and the rest of hippocampus. Additionally, phosphorylated tau co-localize with ‘starter cells’ and appear to spread from the injection site. Preliminary microdialysis results suggest that the concentrations of CSF amyloid-β and tau proteins mirror changes observed along the disease cascade in patients. The disease-modifying drugs appear to halt neuropathological development in this preclincial model. These findings will lead to a novel platform for translational AD research, linking the extensive research done in rodents to clinical applications.

Siddharth’s abstract:
A distributed brain network supports our ability to remember past events. The parietal cortex is a critical member of this network, yet, its exact contributions to episodic remembering remain unclear. Neurodegenerative syndromes affecting the posterior neocortex offer a unique opportunity to understand the importance and role of parietal regions to episodic memory. In this talk, I introduce and explore the rare neurodegenerative syndrome of Logopenic Progressive Aphasia (LPA), an aphasic variant of Alzheimer’s disease presenting with early, left-lateralized temporo-parietal atrophy, amidst relatively spared hippocampal integrity. I then discuss two key studies from my recent Ph.D. work showcasing pervasive episodic and autobiographical memory dysfunction in LPA, to a level comparable to typical, amnesic Alzheimer’s disease. Using multimodal neuroimaging, I demonstrate how degeneration of the angular gyrus in the left inferior parietal lobule, and its structural connections to the hippocampus, contribute to amnesic profiles in this syndrome. I finally evaluate these findings in the context of memory profiles in other posterior cortical neurodegenerative syndromes as well as recent theoretical models underscoring the importance of the parietal cortex in the integration and representation of episodic contextual information.